The moon and why it triggers so many creative responses - Ian McMillan

One of my earliest memories is of me and my dad standing in the back garden of our house at 108 Barnsley Road and gazing up at the sky; it’s very early in the morning and we’re both wearing dressing gowns over our pyjamas.

The moon has inspired creative responses from people for centuries. (James Hardisty).

My dad’s hair, usually neatly combed, is sticking up and unruly. I’m about four or five years and there’s an eclipse of the moon and we’re hoping to catch sight of something magical without gazing directly at anything too bright. I’m holding hands with my dad and his hands are rough but oddly yielding.

I often think about that moment when I ponder why the moon has such a hold on me; when I see the moon I feel happy and when it is hidden behind clouds or nowhere to be seen in the sky I feel an odd but profound sadness.

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As I grew up, I started to read a lot of science fiction because that seemed to bring me closer to the moon’s mysteries; of course, the news was full at that time of manned space flights to the moon and the moon landings and my bedroom was papered with posters of the moon and on my bookcase I had a display of a special set of moon coins that, as I remember, I collected by saving tokens my dad got when he bought petrol at a certain garage.

I was, like everybody else, convinced that by the time I was grown up I’d be having holidays on the moon, rather than Bridlington

Then, in an old American science fiction magazine I picked up second hand at the comic stall on Wombwell market, I read a story that suddenly filled up the sky with even more possibilities.

I can remember nothing else about the story but the first line: “The three moons rose over the horizon of the dusty planet.” It was a shattering idea to me that there could be more than one moon. I told my teacher Mr Moody the next day and he pointed out that Jupiter and Saturn had got lots and I imagined a sky like an early frame in a snooker match.

That night I gazed at the moon and for the first time ever I felt slightly disappointed that we’d got only one; half a dozen would be good. Or more: twenty, maybe, or thirty moons like a bowl of spilled cherries.

I sat down, opened my red Silvine notebook and began to write an epic about The Planet With Fifty Moons; I’d become obsessed with the number 50 since I’d read about a film called Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in my Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

I didn’t get very far with the story, to be honest. As I wrote it the pages became a bit too full of moons. There was a moon-glut. Maybe, as far as moons go, one is enough.

Now, when the moon is full in the summer I stand in the garden and gaze at it, and I think about my dad, and I think about how the moon has been the catalyst for so many creative responses over the years. And then I go inside and begin to write a poem.